Washington forward Noah Dickerson (center) looks for a shot as Oregon guard Payton Pritchard (3) defends during a game on Jan. 24, 2019, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Thomas Boyd)

Washington forward Noah Dickerson (center) looks for a shot as Oregon guard Payton Pritchard (3) defends during a game on Jan. 24, 2019, in Eugene, Ore. (AP Photo/Thomas Boyd)

UW men know they still have work to do

The Huskies checked off another goal with a win over Oregon on Wednesday, but loftier goals lay ahead.

By Lauren Kirschman / The News Tribune

EUGENE, Ore. — David Crisp and Jaylen Nowell talked like this once before.

The first time, they were standing outside the visitor’s locker room in Colorado’s CU Events Center. The Huskies had just beaten the Buffaloes to secure their first road sweep in six years. Crisp said he was aware of that streak, and he wanted to end it.

With victories over Utah and Colorado, the Huskies got it done. Against Oregon on Thursday night, Crisp wanted something else. And once again, UW was up to the task.

After trailing for most of the game, Oregon mounted a furious second-half rally, using a 14-0 run to grab a 56-51 lead. But the Huskies recovered, tying the game on a jump shot and a 3-pointer from Nowell. Then, with 1.6 seconds remaining, Nowell was fouled shooting a 35-foot 3-pointer. He sank all three foul shots to secure the victory.

UW hadn’t won at Oregon since 2010 before the 61-56 victory at Matthew Knight Arena. The Huskies knew that, just like they knew about the road-sweep drought. Afterward, outside yet another visitor’s locker room, their words were familiar.

“Me and Dave talked about it,” Nowell said after the win. “We wanted to beat these guys at home and that’s what we came out here to do.”

Crisp won’t deny the Huskies set goals for this season. Some of them are smaller milestones: The road sweep, the win at Oregon. Others are undoubtedly larger. Crisp didn’t say it, but an NCAA Tournament berth is almost certainly on the list.

UW is well on its way. For the first time since the 1983-84 season, the Huskies are 6-0 in conference play. They are at the top of the Pac-12 standings and no other team has less than two losses. ESPN had the Huskies as a No. 9 seed in its Friday morning bracket prediction.

So far this season, the Huskies are flipping every possible script. And that’s just what Crisp had in mind when he decided to stay in the program after head coach Mike Hopkins was hired in 2017. Back then, Crisp told Hopkins he had unfinished business.

“I never lost sight of that,” Crisp said. “I’ve just been focused. It’s been a grind everyday. I’m trying to better myself. I’m doing everything I can to help my teammates get better, try to be a better leader, try to be the best leader I can be to get where we want to go.

“It takes sacrifice from everybody. You make sacrifices and all the work that you put in the offseason: the blood, sweat and tears. Literally, all of that. To come out there and rewrite history … you can’t put it into words. You dream of stuff like that.”

Nowell has often talked about the importance of UW’s senior leadership, and it was vital once again against the Ducks. As the Huskies’ lead slipped away, Crisp was the one who gathered the team together. His message was simple but effective.

“I told them, ‘It’s going to take everything we got,” Crisp said. “We ain’t getting this back so let’s go out there and do this.’”

It was an in-game message, but it’s meaning stretched further than that. Until he was told, Crisp didn’t know UW hasn’t started this well in conference play in 35 years. Even so, he’s not about to let that knowledge change his mindset. The Huskies are only six games into the conference season, he said. They can’t lose focus now, not with a game in Corvallis against Oregon State on tap on Saturday.

“We know we got a lot more work to do,” he said. “We’re just going to keep pushing, stay level-headed and keep working.”

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